Spring 2015 - Wednesday 5:15-8:05 pm - bldg.: 50-52E
Stanford University, Anthro 335A - French 335A - REES 335A [5 units]

Ewa Domanska


For many years indigenous knowledges were treated as a field of research for anthropologists and as “mistaken epistemologies,” i. e., un-scientific and irrational folklore and childish worldviews. This old view of animism was a product of the evolutionist and anthropocentric worldview of the Enlightenment. However within the framework of ecological humanities, current interest in posthumanism, postsecularism and discussions on building altermodernity (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri), indigenous thought is used to critique modern epistemology and develop an alternative to the Western worldview. Treating native thought as an equivalent to Western knowledge will be presented as (potentially) a decolonizing and liberating practice. The term alter-native modernities will be treated as response to the challenges of Euromodernity and suggests modernities that might emerge out of indigenous ways of being in the world. To examine this problem a comparison between literature on indigenous cultures from Latin America, Africa and East-Central Europe will be offered. Following recent works by anthropologists and archaeologists such as Nurit Bird-Rose, Philippe Descola, Graham Harvey, Tim Ingold and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, new animism will be treated as an alternative (relational) ontology that allows rethinking the problem of matter and agency, goes beyond human exeptionalism and embraces non-humans.

Topics of the seminar will include: multiple modernities and alternative/alter-native modernities; theory of childhood animism (Jean Piaget); problem of anthropomorphism and personification as discussed within evolutionary theory as well as in the humanities; indigenous knowledge and the problem of epistemic violence (Boaventura De Sousa); cognitive justice and affirmative methodologies (Ariella Azoulay, Rosi Braidotti, Elizabeth Grosz, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro), connectedness as the principle of life (relational epistemologies and ontologies); non-human natives (Eduardo Kohn).

This course is a research seminar designed to help students work on papers for other classes, theses and individual projects. It will introduce various approaches to animism and modernities and stress an awareness of how to draw on and combine these approaches for analyzing students’ own research materials. It advocates a bottom-up approach to theory building thus it also teaches students how to formulate their own interpretative categories and small range theories based on case study analysis.



Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three meetings (except for illness or other serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. Each student will sign up to present a text relevant to the the m e of the readings for that week. Class presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes. A 15 page final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student hi m self/herself. It can draw upon work being done in other classes but must utilize the materials of this course as well. Grading: participation - 40%; class presentation - 20%; final paper - 40%.



April 1
1. Introduction: overview of the course

April 8
2. Alternative / Alter-Native Modernities and Multiple Modernities

  • Arif Dirlik, Thinking Modernity Historically: Is “Alternative Modernity” the Answer? “Asian Review of World Histories,” vol. 1, no. 1, January 2013: 5-44.
  • Walter D. Mignolo, Preamble: The Historical Foundation of Modernity / Coloniality and the Emergence of Decolonial Thinking, in: A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture, ed. by Sara Castro-Klaren, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 2008: 12-32.
  • Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “The Otherwise Modern”. Caribbean Lessons from the Savage Slot, in: Critically Modern: Alternatives, Alterities, Anthropologies, ed. by Bruce M. Knauft. Indiana University Press, 2002: 220-237 (ibidem: John D. Kelly, Alternative Modernities or an Alternative to “Modernity”: Getting Out of the Modernist Sublime: 258-286; Jonathan Friedman, Modernity and Other Tradition: 287-313).
    • S. N. Eisenstadt, Multiple Modernities.  Daedalus, vol. 129, no. 1, Winter 2000: 1-29.
    • Elsje Fourie, "A Future for the Theory of Multiple Modernities: Insights from the New Modernization Theory." Social Sciences Information, vol. 51, no. 1, 2012: 52-69.
    • Bill Ashcroft, Alternative Modernities: Globalization and the Post-Colonial. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, vol. 40, no. 1, 2009: 81-105.
    • Alternative Modernities, ed. by Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001 (or: Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, “On Alternative Modernities.” Public Culture vol. 11, no. 1, 1999: 1–18).
    • Susan Stanford Friedman, Definitional Excursions: The Meanings of Modern/Modernity/ Modernism. Modernism/Modernity, vol.  8, no. 3, 2001: 493-513.
    • Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present. New York: Verso, 2002.
    • Bruno Latour, We Have Never. Been Modern, trans. by Catherine Porter. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993.

April 15
3. Dark Side of Modernity - Epistemicide

  • Immanuel Wallerstein, Eurocentrism and its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science. “New Left Review”, no. 226, November 1, 1997: 93-108.
  • Boaventura De Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Paradigm, 2014: 118-186.
  • Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Duke University Press, 2011 (Introduction, Part I and Part II: 1-145).
    • Karen Bennett, Epistemicide! The Tale of a Predatory Discourse. The Translator, vol. 13, no. 2, 2007: 151-169.

April 22
4. Transformative Potential of Non-Western Alter-Native Modernities
special guest: James Ferguson

  • James Ferguson, Decomposing Modernity: History and Hierarchy after Development, in his, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Duke University Press, 2006: 176-193.
  • James Ferguson, The Copperbelt in Theory: From ‘Emerging Africa’ to the Ethnography of Decline, and Global Disconnect: Abjection and the Aftermath of Modernism in his, Expectations of Modernity.  Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt. University of California Press, 1999: 2-37 and 234-254.
  • Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009 (part II. Modernity: 65-128).
    • Peter Beilharz, Introduction: From Socialism to Modernity, via Americanism, in his, Socialism and Modernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009: ix-xix.
    • Jacek Kochanowicz, Backwardness and Modernization: Poland and Eastern Europe in the 16th-20th Centuries. Ashgate Pub Co, 2006.

April 29
5. Overcoming Modernity: Cognitive Justice and Affirmative Methodologies

  • Catherine A. Odora Hoppers, Indigenous Knowledge and the Integration of Knowledge Systems: Towards a Conceptual and Methodological Framework, in: Indigenous Knowledge and the Integration of Knowledge Systems:  Towards a Philosophy of Articulation, ed. by Catherine Alum Odora Hoppers. Claremont, South Africa: New Africa Education, 2002: 2-21.
  • Daniel Coleman, Marie Battiste, Sákéj Henderson, Isobel M. Findlay and Len Findlay, Different Knowings and the Indigenous Humanities. “ESC: English Studies in Canada”, vol. 38, no. 1, 2012: 141-159.
  • Enrique Salmon, Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions of the Human-Nature Relationship. “Ecological Applications,” vol. 10, no. 5, 2000: 1327-1332 and Raymond Pierotti, Daniel Wildcat, Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Third Alternative (Commentary). “Ecological Applications,” vol. 10, no. 5, October 2000: 1333-1340.
    • Raymond Pierotti, Indigenous Knowledge, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology. New York: Routledge, 2011.
    • Emma Battell Lowman and Adam Barker, Indigenizing Approaches to Research, 2010.
  • Elizabeth Grosz, Introduction, in her, Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005: 1-10.
  • Rosi Braidotti, Powers of Affirmation: Response to Lisa Baraitser, Patrick Hanafin and Clare Hemmings. “Subjectivity”, vol. 3, no. 2, 2010: 140–148.
  • Ariella Azoulay, Potential History: Thinking through Violence. Critical Inquiry, vol. 39, no. 3, Spring 2013: 548-574.
    • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books, 1999 [2012].
    • Yasuo Yuasa, Overcoming Modernity. Synchronicity and Image-Thinking, trans. by Shigenori Nagatomo and John Krummel. Albany: SUNY Press, 2008.

May 6
6. Animism as Strategy of Knowing

  • Animism. MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science.
  • Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World. Savage, MD: Littlefield Adams, 1951 (Part II. Animism: 169-251).
  • E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture: Researches Into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom, vol. II. London; New York: J. Murray; G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1920: 206-223; 322-327 (or: E.B. Taylor, Animism, in: International Encyclopedia of Tribal Religion, vol. 1, ed. by Dubhadra M. Channa. Cosmo Publications, 2000: 3-23).
  • Alf Hornborg, Animism, Fetishism, and Objectivism as Strategies for Knowing (or not Knowing) the World. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, vol. 71, no. 1, 2006: 21-32.

May 13
7. New Animism

  • The Handbook of Contemporary Animism, ed. by Graham Harvey. Acumen Publishing, 2013: 1-112.
  • Graham Harvey, Animism. Respecting the Living World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006: xi-29; 99-120; 179-212.
  • Nick Haslam, Dehumanization: An Integrative Review. “Personality and Social Psychology Review”, vol. 10, no. 3, 2006: 252-264.
    • Istvan Praet, Animism and the Question of Life. Routledge, 2013: 1-60.
    • Philippe Descola, Beyond Nature and Culture, trans. by Janet Lloyd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

May 20
8. New Animism as Relational Epistemology

  • Bird-David, Nurit, ‘Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology. “Current Anthropology”, vol. 40, February 1999: 567-591.
  • Tim Ingold, Rethinking the Animate, Re-Animating Thought. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, vol. 71, no. 1, March 2006: 9-20.
  • Ernst Halbmayer, Debating Animism, Perspectivism, and the Construction of Ontologies (Berlin, 2012) INDIANA 29: 9-23.
  • Harry Garuba, On Animism, Modernity/Colonialism, and the African Order of Knowledge: Provisional Reflections. e-flux, #36, July 2012.
  • Africa and the Future: An Interview with Achille Mbembe

May 27
9. Animism in Amazonia and Siberia: A Comparative View
guest participant: Marília Librandi-Rocha

  • Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia, edited by Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti, Olga Ulturgasheva. New York and Lodon: Berghan, 2012.
  • Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism. “The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,” vol. 4, no. 3, September 1998: 469-488.
  • ---, Perspectival Anthropology and the Method of Controlled Equivocation. “Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America,” vol. 2, no. 1, 2004: 3-22.
  • ---, Some Reflections on the Notion of Species in History and Anthropology, trans. by Frederico Santos Soares de Freitas and Zeb Tortorici. “BIO/ZOO,” vol. 10, no. 1, Winter 2013.
    • Lucas Bessire and David Bond, “Ontological Anthropology and the Deferral of Critique.” American Ethnologist, vol. 41, no. 3, 2014: 440–56.
    • Marlia Librandi-Rocha, Becoming Natives of Literature: Towards an Ontology of the Mimetic Game (Lévi-Strauss, Costa Lima, Viveiros de Castro, and the Nambikwara Art Lesson). Culture, Theory and Critique, vol. 54, no.: 2, 2013: 166-182.
    • Gabrielle Schwab, Imaginary Ethnographies. Literature, Culture, & Subjectivity. Columbia University Press, 2012 (chapter 1: "Another Writing Lesson: Levi-Strauss, Derrida, and the Chief of the Nambikwara" : 27-44).
    • Rane Willerslev, Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism and Personhood among the Siberian Yukaghirs. University of California Press, 2007.

June 3
10. Non-Human Natives and Their Modernities
/ Non-Human Biopolitics

  • Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human. University of California Press, 2013 (Introduction, chapt. 1, 1-68; 83-97; chapt. 4:131-150; chapt. 6 and Epilogue: 191-228).
  • Connor J. Cavanagh, Biopolitics, Environmental Change, and Development Studies. Forum for Development Studies, vol. 41, no. 2, 2014: 273-294.
  • Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2010 (or: Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter.” Political Theory, vol. 32, no. 3, June 2004: 347-372).
    • The Nonhuman Turn, ed. by Richard Grusin. University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
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©ed 2015